As-applied Constitutional Challenge to SORA Registration Prevails in Court of Appeals
Mr. Brown stole money from his aunt, at gunpoint, in the presence of his minor cousin. He subsequently pled guilty to, inter alia, unlawful imprisonment of a child. It was undisputed that the crime was entirely non-sexual, and the SORA hearing court found that Mr. Brown was not a sex offender and posed no sexual theat. Mr. Brown was nevertheless required to register as a sex offender under New York law due to the unlawful imprisonment of a child offense.
Mr. Brown challenged this determination, arguing that requiring him to register as a sex offender violated his due process rights and did nothing to further the legislative purpose of SORA – to protect the public from actual sex offenders. Mr. Brown referred to the hearing judge’s specific findings that he was not a sex offender and posed no actual threat, and noted that while incarcerated, he was not referred to any sex counseling or treatment program “due to the nonsexual nature of the offense committed.”
The Court of Appeals agreed, ruling that the SORA registration requirements, as applied to him, was not rationally related to SORA’s purpose of protecting the public from sex offenders. Recognizing the stigma of a sex offender misdesignation, the Court found that “[w]here a SORA court expressly finds that there was no sexual conduct or motive and no risk of future sexual offense, application of the sex offender label cannot be justified on the ground that a defendant may pose a risk of future sexual misconduct, and there is no further administrative burden in reaching that conclusion.” Because Mr. Brown is not a sex offender and not a sexual threat, requiring him to be subject to SORA “is a clear violation of his due process rights.”
Ava C. Page represented Mr. Brown